NTSC Vs. PAL/SECAM

 

 

Background

In the USA and many other countries in the western hemisphere, a video format called NTSC (National Television System Committee) is used.  In terms of general digital video editing, the full resolution is approximately 720 x 480.  The frame rate is 29.97 fps, which is very close to (but not the same as) 30 fps.  Throughout this guide, if I mention 30 fps, I really mean 29.97 fps.

In many European countries, video formats called PAL (Phase Alternating Line) or SECAM (Système Electronique Couleur Avec Mémoire) are used.  In terms of general digital video editing, the full resolution of these formats is approximately 768 x 576.  The frame rate is exactly 25 fps.

If you are unsure about the video format of your country, do a search on www.altavista.com containing the name of your country and the words "PAL", "SECAM", or "NTSC".


Is this guide valid if I use a PAL/SECAM system?

Yes, I have designed this guide to accommodate users of PAL/SECAM video systems.  Although I personally use an NTSC system, I've tried my best to mention PAL/SECAM video as much as possible.  Just remember that if I start talking about video at 29.97 fps or 30 fps, you can usually pretend that I'm saying 25 fps.


Do you have any suggestions for handling PAL/SECAM video?

In general, working with PAL/SECAM video is very similar to working with NTSC video.  You just have to remember that there is a different resolution, frame rate, etc. for PAL/SECAM video.  

As a final note, if you are trying to create a low resolution video (3XX by 2XX), I suggest capturing in native PAL/SECAM resolution (XXX by 288/576) and resizing your video to 320 x 240.  Here's why:

1)  320 x 240 is a more standard resolution for video and is often an exact factor of common monitor resolutions.

2)  Some encoders are more optimized for 320 x 240 video.  (For example, RealVideo starts to lose image sharpness above 320 x 240.)

3)  A 3XX x 288 video clip will have a larger file size than a 320 x 240 video clip.  While it is true that the image will also be slightly more detailed, it may not be worth the extra disk space.

4)  Only PAL/SECAM videos that are stored in 384 x 288 will have the correct aspect ratio for a computer monitor.  Other resolutions, such as 352 x 288, will produce a stretched image.

Of course, this is only a suggestion, so you are free to keep your video at 384 x 288 if you want to.